Quince and Apple Pie

When I was a child in rural Pennsylvania, we had many ancient apple trees on our property.  They yielded countless small, hard, green, sour, buggy apples every fall.  We children picked and picked them so our mom could can delicious homemade applesauce and apple butter.

My tree in bloom

Next to an enormous tree close to the house, there was a small bush that bloomed in coral pink every spring and seldom put forth any fruit.  I claimed this beauty as my own from an early age.  The big apple tree is long gone, but my little tree is still there, blooming every spring and occasionally making a fruit or two.  My mother told me it was a quince and ever since then, I’ve wanted to try one.

Quince flower

Much to my delight, I saw some quince for sale at my local farmers’ market last saturday, and I had to have them. I bought four large fruits, the size of a big apple.  They were pale yellow-green and covered with soft white fuzz.  After doing a little research, I discovered that they were borderline inedible raw, but could be made into jellies and pies.  I’m happy to leave the jelly making to my dear mommy, but man I love pie.

Here’s what I came up with.  You could also make this with only apples, or with a combo of apples and pears.  This pie is healthy enough that you could eat it for breakfast!  No oils, flour, or processed sugar.

For the crust:

1.5 c nuts and seeds (any combination will do: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflowers, etc)

1.5 c dates or other dried fruit (I used dates and apricots)

Pulse the nuts/seeds in the food processor until they are finely ground, but not so much that they turn into butter.  Add the dates or other fruit one at a time, pulsing until it forms a sticky mixture.  You’ll have to touch it to know it’s done; you should be able to roll a bit into a soft ball.  You might not use all of the fruit specified, it’s just a guideline.

Press a little more than half the mixture into a pie plate, including up the sides.  Set aside the rest for topping your pie.

For the filling: 

3 medium/large quince, peeled, cored, and sliced (sharpen your knife, these babies are like rocks!)

2-3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/2 c liquid sweetener (I used 1/4 c honey and 1/4 c maple syrup)

1/2 c water

juice from about half a lemon

1 Tbls cornstarch

3/4 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder (a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, and black pepper)

1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Combine the quince, water, honey, and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins.  Add the apples and cook for 5 more minutes.  The fruit should be tender but not mushy.

2.  Transfer the mixture to a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Allow to cool.  (This is a great time to make your crust!).  Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400F.

3.  When the fruit is cool, dump it into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the top and pat it together with your hands.  It might not cover the whole thing, but it will taste good just the same!

4.  Bake for 15mins at 400F.  Turn the oven down to 375F and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the fruit is tender and before the crust starts to burn.  Watch it closely if you don’t think it’s done after 20mins.  The crust will be really nasty if you burn it!

5.  Cool on a wire rack for 30mins.  Slice and serve warm to lots of friends.  It might fall apart when you take it out of the pan, but it will be tasty in a crumbly pile too.

Mmmm blurry pie (don’t worry, I shared)

I went to a baking party! Check me out, making my Penny Parsnip Pumpkin Muffins.

JennaSalvagin.com

When I was invited to participate in my friend Alexia’s baking party, I was conflicted. I’ve never been one to bake, and since I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia 14 years ago, I’ve managed to control the little sweet tooth I have. That being said, I still wanted to visit, so I offered to come by with my camera and watch everyone else bake. In all honesty, I walked away feeling slightly inspired and wound up making a vegan chocolate cake when I got home. Since I wasn’t occupied baking at the baking party, I took some nice photos to document it instead.

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This is the result of a great tutorial Alexia found on Pinterst for Mason Jar air fresheners.

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Alexia’s kitten, Penny, was fixed yesterday.

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Even though I haven’t any room or use for it, I’m slightly jealous of her gorgeous grey Kitchenaid.

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With four baking projects happening in one…

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Pumpkin Muffins

Recently, I went to my local farmers’ market and decided to celebrate fall with a locally made pumpkin muffin.  Went home with my sacks of goodies, made some coffee, and prepared to enjoy.  Took a bite and… blehhh.  Extreme disappointment!  Too sweet, didn’t taste at all like pumpkin, and was loaded with chunks of stuff–raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, cranberries.  It was just too much.  Not at all the nourishing autumnal treat I had been hoping for.  Naturally, in my culinarily distraught state, I began combing the internet and my cook books for a healthier recipe. Qualifications: low in sugar, whole grain, no oil, bonus points for gluten-free (because I love my GF friends so much!).  I found two that looked like they’d pass muster, and commenced baking.  After a few tasty test batches, I ended up combining elements of the two into my own version.  So here it is, folks!  A hearty, whole-grain, oil-free, low-sugar, spicy pumpkin muffin for your breakfasting and snacking pleasure.

1 15oz can pumpkin puree (make sure it is just pumpkin, not pie filling!)

1/2 c amaranth *see note below

1/2 c boiling water

1/2 c plant milk, preferably unsweetened

1/4 c maple syrup

1 c oat flour (to make your own, grind oats in a blender or food processor – even a stick blender works; measure after they are ground)

1 c whole wheat flour *see variation below to make GF

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 c raisins dried cranberries (optional, but way better than raisins!)

1/2 c walnuts (optional)

1. Put the amaranth in a heat-proof bowl and add the boiling water.  Let it soak for 20 minutes.

2. Mix wet ingredients in a big bowl, including the soaked amaranth and water.

3. Sift dry ingredients separately, then add to the wet mixture.

4. Fold in raisins and nuts, if using.

5. Scoop the batter into muffin tins that are either lined with paper liners or lightly sprayed with oil.  You’ll be able to make 12 regular sized muffins, and the cups will be full, almost to the top.  Have no fear!  This batter doesn’t puff up as much as a cupcake would, so it won’t ooze all over your oven.

6.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Notes and Variations:

Amaranth is a tiny whole grain with loads of fiber and protein, and a rather strong flavor.  You’ll probably get your best price on it from a bulk bin at the natural food stores. Otherwise, Arrowhead Mills and (I think) Bob’s Red Mill both sell it.  If you really can’t find it either order it online, or leave it out altogether.  If you do leave it out, you could try adding another small whole grain instead (bulgur, millet, quinoa?).  You may need to adjust the amount of liquid if you omit it.  Let me know how it turns out!

To make this a gluten-free muffin, you have two options: either replace the whole wheat flour with another cup of oat flour, which will yield a very dense and moist muffin, or try replacing the whole wheat flour with a cup of gluten-free flour replacer like the one from Bob’s Red Mill.  I haven’t tried the gluten-free flour in this recipe yet, so if you do, report back to me on the results!

If you don’t have any pumpkin, I’m sure mashed sweet potato would work just as well.

Butternut Squash

To celebrate the second day of Autumn, I roasted a butternut squash, my first of the season.  Since I hate waste, I also roasted the seeds into crunchy, salty scrumptiousness.  Here’s some imprecise instructions for you, for both:

1.  Start by hacking the squash in half lengthwise with a sharp, heavy knife and scooping out the seeds.  Place the squash halves face down in a baking pan with a litte water, and place it in a 375 degree oven.  Don’t worry about being precise on the oven temp; if you’re baking something else at 425 or 350, that will work too.

2.  While it bakes, clean the seeds of any squash pulp and put them in a small pan with a little vegetable oil (not olive, it burns).  Make sure all the seeds are thoroughly coated, and place it in the oven with the squash.

3.  Check the seeds after about 10 mins and give them a stir.  They’ll probably need a little more time.  You’ll know they’re done when they are crunchy and golden but not burned to a crisp.  I didn’t time it, but I think it took about 20 minutes.

4.  To check the squash for doneness, just stab it with a fork.  If the fork goes in easily, it’s done.  If not, give it more time.  This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

From there, you can do whatever you want with the squash!  I made mine into soup, but you could also mash it and eat, or chop it and add it to all kinds of things, or even put it into a pumpkin pie or other baked goods.

The seeds should be drained on paper towels and salted and enjoyed.  Sharing is optional.

Breakfast Scramble with Swiss Chard and Peas

One of my favorite easy meals is a tofu scramble.  It’s a great way to introduce tofu into your diet without too much trouble, and in fact, I made my first when I was in junior-high and just learning to cook plant-based food.  That first recipe came in the Vegetarian Started Kit I had ordered from PETA, and was the first time I made something edible from tofu.

The simplest scrambles are usually tofu, onion, potatoes, bell peppers, and whatever else you have lying around, plus a sauce.  My first had barbecue sauce on it, and I know I’ve eaten it with ketchup when I was really feeling lazy.  Today’s scramble is a little more gourmet.  I found some beautiful Swiss chard at the farmers’ market, as well as sugar-snap peas that I somehow resisted the urge to polish off raw on my walk home (cherry tomatoes didn’t fare so well).  I’ve found that chard is rather bitter on its own, so from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I got the idea to add an orange to it to balance that out.  Also more reason to use those sweet sweet peas!

For this recipe, you need a big deep skillet or a wok.

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1 pkg extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s because it’s only about $1.99!)

a big bunch of Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, stems reserved

sugar-snap peas, stringed (oops, didn’t measure them!  use as many as you like)

1 orange, peeled and chopped, reserving all the juices

1 bunch of scallions

1-3 Tbls tamari or soy sauce (I did measure this! So proud of myself)

sesame seeds (optional)

black pepper to taste

1.  Drain the tofu and squeeze out as much water as you can. When I have the time, I like to cut mine into 4 slabs and brown it in a non-stick pan over medium-high flame before I scramble it.  You can skip that step and just crumble it into the pan if you want.

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2.  If you browned it, break up the tofu slabs with a wooden spoon.  Add the chard stems to the pan with a little water and put a lid on it to soften them up for a few minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, steam the peas.  I did this separately because I know that sugar-snaps are awful if overcooked.  They need only 2 or 3 minutes to get bright green.  You want them to still be sweet and a little crunchy.  Then drain them and set aside.

4.  Add the chard leaves to the big pan and put the lid back on after giving it a good stir.  If they don’t all fit, have no fear!   They’ll cook down enough in a few minutes to add the rest.

5.  Once all the greens have wilted, add the orange, scallions, tamari, and sesame seeds.  Stir and cook uncovered for a few minutes to blend the flavors, then add the peas.  Stir it some more, adjust the seasonings, and serve with fresh ground pepper.

Enjoy a healthy and hearty meal!  Depending on how big your appetite is, you should be able to get 4-6 servings out of this.  Don’t worry about eating too much!  The bulk of this is greens, so it has lots of nutritional punch and few calories.

Mango Salsa

Usually I’m all for condiments in a bottle, but mangos have been on sale lately and I wanted to something extra special to go with those black bean burgers.  This is what I came up with:

Mango Salsa

(this recipe makes enough for a crowd!  cut in half if you aren’t sharing)

2 cups frozen sweet corn (I like Trader Joe’s organic.  It’s like candy.)

1 ripe mango, diced

1/2red bell pepper, minced

1/4 red onion, minced

fresh cilantro, minced

lime juice (2 or 3 limes)

Slap Ya Mama! or other spicy seasoning blend, to taste

1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl, squeeze lime juice over it, season with salt and pepper if you like.  But I really recommend Slap Ya Mama!

2.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend and the corn to thaw completely. Serve with burgers, chips, tacos, guac, etc.

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